Comprehensive immigration reform and "pathway to citizenship" are Washington-speak for legalizing the roughly 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. And at a time of high unemployment and mounting federal debt, one important component is the legislation's impact on the federal budget.
According to studies from both the left and the right, an estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of illegal immigrants don't have high school diplomas, compared to about 15 percent of American adults. Illegal immigrants typically work in low-wage careers, such as housework, food service, gardening and construction, earning roughly $15,000 to $30,000 a year.
In some cases, those wages would qualify them for social welfare programs like food stamps, Medicaid and refundable tax credits -- programs that you don't need to pay federal income tax to qualify for.
The latest immigration bill hasn't been scored yet by the Congressional Budget Office, but many of the components are similar to those in the failed 2007 immigration bill, which would have cost an estimated $30 billion over five years, including $20 billion for enforcement measures. The CBO also said the 2007 bill would have added $15 billion to the federal deficit.
FoxNews.com's latest taxpayer calculator estimates how much someone in your income range would have paid on average under the 2007 bill.
People earning under $15,000 would have paid an estimated $1.27 over five years. The same average for those making $30,000 to $50,000k would be $48. The bill would have cost Americans bringing home $100,000 to $200,000 an average of $365 over five years, or $73 a year.
Staffers and sources on Capitol Hill say that, like the 2007 bill, the latest legislation would require citizenship applicants to learn English and pay a fine, but it also may contain a "touch back" provision – in which people would go to their home countries to register but would be allowed to "wait in line" while working in the U.S. with visas.
The conservative Heritage Foundation says comprehensive immigration reform will cost U.S. taxpayers much more -- about $90 billion a year, once low-skilled immigrants are fully legalized. The organization says these immigrants will receive an average of $3 to $4 in benefits for every $1 paid in taxes.
“If you are adding millions and millions of very poorly educated people into the welfare system, into Social Security and Medicare, you are going to have a huge expansion of government costs,” says Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
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